Dropping the B from BJJ - by Budo Jake

Dropping the B from BJJ - by Budo Jake

Royce Gracie UFC

In the US, since the 90’s the art that I practice and teach has been called Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or sometimes Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Take off the gi and it might be called grappling, submission grappling, or nogi grappling.

Some will argue that Judo guys have been doing pretty much the same thing we BJJ guys have been doing, but for a lot longer. While I agree in part, most Judo clubs focus much more on stand up, and much less on the ground.

Kosen Judo 

(Photo: Old School Judo in Japan)

Back when the Rorion and other Gracies brought the art to the US, there were already small groups of Japanese Jujutsu practitioners here. For the most part, these groups were fairly small and didn’t offer much in terms of full resistance sparring. Often times, they were teaching kata (prescribed forms), similar to what modern day BJJ schools might do in their self-defense programs.

George Kirby Jujutsu

(Photo: George Kirby - an early Japanese Jujutsu teacher in the US, link to DVD)

Because these Japanese jujutsu groups were already in the US, we needed a name to differentiate the Brazilian counterparts, hence the name BJJ or Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. After seeing Royce in UFC 1 (live on PPV in my case), it was clear that BJJ was very different than Japanese Jujutsu.

During my first trip to Brazil I was surprised to learn that they don’t call it BJJ in their own country, it’s simply Jiu-Jitsu. Looking back, it makes sense. In Brazil they were continuing what they were taught (by Mitsuyo Maeda and other Japanese teachers). Back in those early days it seems there was much more focus on ground work, even in Japan.

 Jake & Terere

(Photo: Interviewing the legend Terere in Brazil. Link to episode.)

So that brings me to my question. BJJ has been spread far and wide in the US. Japanese Jujutsu has not fared as well. For many people,  laypeople and hardcore practitioners, Jiu-Jitsu = BJJ. When someone says “the current UFC champ has great Jiu-Jitsu no one is confusing that for the Japanese style. In my conversations I rarely use the B. I think it’s time we drop it. What do you think? Please drop a comment below and let me know!


26 comments

  • Karma Senge

    I have always just verbally called it jiu-jitsu. But when I write it, I will either put BJJ or GJJ depending on if I am talking about sport jiu-jitsu (BJJ) or Gracie Jiu-Jitsu self-defense (GJJ).

  • Francisco Estrada

    If this would be a State affair, a commission of inquiry would determine that the real name is Kosen Judo (for those who don’t know what is this, find out in Google). At least, that’s what ALL the Gracies showed in the 90s. However, with the emergence of names like Eddie Bravo and John Danaher, there is now more ground to talk about American Jiu Jitsu rather than Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at the time. Greetings.

  • Robert Brooks

    The B may have lost its relevance in relation to BJJ but the JJ has not!
    I believe that BJJ should maintain it’s present name.
    There is a notable difference between what I refer to as the traditionally based jujutsu and BJJ and all of it’s derivatives. The public should be made aware of this difference starting with the name. That is why there are different Ryu’s. Each has a unique prospective or approach “if you will” to Jujutsu. However, Jujutsu is a Japanese art (as per the name itself implies) and no matter how different the approach (in general) these Gendai Ryu’s attempt to maintain some sense of the arts origins. BJJ has for the most part (at least in the US) deemphasizes this. Not a bad thing, but the public should not be led to believe that BJJ is the prototype for Jujutsu. It should be clear from the onset that there is a difference, in technique, approach, philosophy and spiritual underpinnings. The JJ is only the historical phoenix from which BJJ arose.

  • Jean Woodman

    It is a different approach to Japanese jiu jitsu and helio is the cause of that approach. Go do more research on how Gracie jiu jitsu aka brazillian jiu jitsu, before you write about name changes. Where were the “american jiu jitsu” guys when ufc came out? Royce came and proved that his fathers way of jiu jitsu is much more effective.
    We call a Ferrari a Ferrari, not a Ferrari car. Each car’s name distinguishes it from the rest. Brazilian jiu jitsu is different in approach to its Japanese forerunner

  • porl

    I’m all for it. I’ll only ever use “Brazilian” as a qualifier if I need to clarify the specific style if questioned. Otherwise it is just “Jiu Jitsu”.

    People saying it needs to be differentiated from “Japanese Ju Jutsu” forget two things: Every style/school (ryu) of Ju Jutsu is very different from each other, so there is no “standard” Japanese Ju Jutsu. Second, true Japanese Ju Jutsu is all but extinct – even in Japan. Everyone claiming to train or teach it outside of very few places are teaching Judo/Karate/insert-other-art-here hybrids that they have named something-ryu Ju Jutsu.

    There is no reason that every other “ryu” of Ju Jutsu/Jiu Jitsu can be lumped in together but Brazilian/Gracie Jiu Jitsu must always have the clarifier, other than for marketing. And for marketing, all the other styles would do the same anyway.

    In other words, I train Jiu Jitsu. If anyone needs more detail I will say I train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and submission grappling (along with Judo but that is irrelevant here).

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published